Thomas Wangler, a Siemens engineer, lays a flower in front of John Rabe's tomb during a memorial at Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Cemetery in the western suburb of Berlin, Germany, on Jan. 5, 2020. At a corner of a cemetery in the west of Berlin stood the tombstone of John Rabe, an ordinary German businessman who became revered and remembered by Chinese, for he helped protect Chinese citizens during the 1937 Nanjing Massacre. (Xinhua/Ren Ke)
by Tian Ying, Zhang Yuan
BERLIN, Jan. 5 (Xinhua) -- At a corner of a cemetery in the west of Berlin stood the tombstone of John Rabe, an ordinary German businessman who became revered and remembered by Chinese, for he helped protect Chinese citizens during the 1937 Nanjing Massacre.
Sunday marked the 70th anniversary of the death of Rabe. Some 30 people, Germans and local Chinese expats included, held a memorial at the tomb of Rabe, as in previous anniversaries.
Laying flowers, tidying up the tombstone, and standing in silent mourning, many Chinese came to pay homage in deep gratitude. A Chinese student soprano sang a German song with repeated lyrics of "We thank" at the memorial.
"As Chinese, we all know John Rabe," said Song Liguo, a middle-aged man who's lived in Germany for 19 years and came to the memorial alone holding a bouquet of flowers.
"The well-known movie Schindler's List often reminds me of John Rabe. I was surprised knowing his tomb was in the city I live, and decided to pay my respect in person," Song told Xinhua in his third visit to Rabe's grave.
Rabe, a Hamburg-born business representative of Siemens to China, was regarded as the "Oskar Schindler of China," as he set up a security zone in worn-torn Nanjing with a few remaining foreigners there and saved tens of thousands of lives between 1937 and 1938.
When Rabe was called back to Germany in early 1938, he took with him a 10-volume diary that recorded the atrocities of the Japanese invaders.
Ju Zhengji, a Chinese doctorate student of history in the Free University of Berlin, has a more compelling reason to pay homage to Rabe because he is a Nanjing native. He volunteered to speak in front of all attendees at the memorial, "Representing Nanjing people, I stand here to express our gratitude to Mr. Rabe."
As a Nanjing native, Ju has learned about the horrid history and the touching story of Rabe quite young. Here at the grave, he was deeply impressed by the lasting power of the manifestation of the greatness in human nature.
"70 years on, still many people rally at Rabe's tomb, remembering him. When man did a great thing, people will never forget him," Ju told Xinhua.
Wolfram Wickert from the Erwin Wickert Foundation, the organizer of the memorial, said Rabe helped promote the mutual understanding and friendship between Germany and China. The courage shown by him at those extremely difficult time touched many souls.
After the memorial, attendees visited the building where Rabe last lived. There hangs a metal plate on the wall introducing Rabe's life in Chinese, German and English with his portrait on.
The designer of the plate, Thomas Wangler, a Siemens engineer, is among those who paid homage to Rabe. He told Xinhua Rabe was a stranger to him until he saw a film about him, though only out of a simple interest that it was a movie concerning Siemens.
"I was so impressed by the spirit of humanity and courage shown by John Rabe and decided to take the duty of designing the plate," Wangler said.
A German attendee, Egon Schueler, told Xinhua: "Somebody is dead, but what he did in the past should be learned for the sake of future. For this reason, we meet together."